EDITORIAL: Dealing with the drug trade
The news in Barbados over the past few weeks has been about economic and financial issues. There was the Central Bank of Barbados’ half-yearly report, the downgrade of the country’s international credit rating, and even a plan to seek wages increases by one union in these tough times.
However, some of the most gripping and indeed running news items have been about the persistence by those in the alternative economy – the illegal drugs trade – to pursue their operations whether on land or the high seas, here in Barbados or a few hundred miles away in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is now accepted that whenever there are major cultural events in Barbados, there seems to be a high demand for marijuana from our neighbour. Indeed, Regional Security System (RSS) head Grantley Watson told the DAILY NATION that his agency expected the usual rise in activity at this time of year since drug transshipments usually increased during the Crop Over Festival.
Additionally, the illegal drugs trade brings with it the twin problem of illegal guns, which can only propel the cycle of violence.
We should not consider legalization, as some in society have suggested, since this will not solve the trafficking problem and may only add to a growing drug addiction headache. Simply incarcerating those caught in the growing, supplying, manufacturing and trading of illegal drugs will not bring the full solution.
We have to help the farmers growing the marijuana with development aid so they can switch to viable produce which would have a ready market and offer a decent standard of living. We also have to help the others benefiting throughout the illegal supply chain so they too can shift activity. This can only come through public education and a united front by leaders at all levels to speak strong against the illegal drugs trade.
It is also going to be important for member states of the RSS to not only make full use of its services, but also to pay up fully to the organization despite their tight budgetary constraints.
However, we need even more. Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent – whose country is party to a number of United Nations drug conventions and has also signed on to a number of other hemispheric conventions aimed at fighting organized crime – needs to speak to how his government intends to further fight this scourge.
Additionally, lawmakers in both countries need to ensure that we have updated criminal codes that make use of regional best practices in fighting transnational organized crime.
Certainly, we need to have more civil litigation leading to the forfeiture of ill-gotten gains from those in the illegal drugs business. The outcomes must be made public.